Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: A Lack of Visionaries

By 1987, Hasbro had pretty thoroughly conquered the toy aisle thanks to the double-barrel impact of Transformers and G.I. Joe. Both of those mega-hits prompted the toymaker to plot new worlds to conquer, which led to the creation of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. I remember first seeing the commercials for this during a visit to Edmonton in the summer of 1987, and the catchy theme song and flashy animation in the commercials sure did the trick to get me stoked.

However, since we were headed back to Saudi Arabia in a few weeks I wouldn't find out until the following year that Visionaries had already come -- and gone. Like both of its Hasbro contemporaries (which were still continuing along), the marketing for Visionaries was built around the three-pronged approach of a Hasbro action figure line, a Marvel comic book, and an animated series from Marvel and Hasbro's own Sunbow Productions. The show premiered in syndication in September '87, and here's what the intro looked like:

As developed by Joe and Transformers vet Flint Dille, Visionaries eschewed the science fiction settings of its Hasbro siblings in favor of a fantasy premise. On a distant planet called Prysmos, two warring factions of knights (the Spectral Knights, the Darkling Lords) wage battle with one another with the aid of holographic creatures ("the magical light") projected from their chest plates and weapons (this allowed each figure to have a gimmick hologram avatar). It could've been the standard good guy/bad guy stuff, but the mythology was interesting and distinct. The toys came soon after:

As you can see, the Hasbro connection was big (Some of the ads even trumpeted, "From the makers of Transformers!"), but for whatever reason Visionaries just didn't resonate with its target audience the same way Hasbro's other successes did. The Marvel series (published under their kiddie-centric "Star Comics" imprint and written by Punisher creator Gerry Conway) folded after only six issues, the cartoon was gone after thirteen installments, and the toys were on clearance pegs by the following Thanksgiving. Appropriately enough, in the end, the whole thing felt like a fleeting hologram.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: David Janssen is Harry O

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: WildC.A.T.s -- More Craptastic Saturday Morning Superheroes

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: DuckTales! Woo-ooh!

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: RoboCop: The Series -- The Future of Law Enforcement Gets Syndicated

Five Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Night Man -- Marvel's Short-Lived Media Star

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